When it comes to insults, the Russians could do worse than take classes from the North Koreans.
Consider Moscow’s attempt to convey furious disdain and high-minded disgust at the recent visit to Ukraine of the leaders of Europe’s Big Three. Faced with news and images of the happy trio touring Kiev and Irpin, here’s the best Moscow managed in terms of derisiveness. Dmitri Medvedev, the former Russian president, called France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Olaf Scholz and Italy’s Mario Draghi “European connoisseurs of frogs, liverwurst and pasta.”
Rather than insulting, it sounded quite charming, actually.
Clearly Moscow is way behind Pyongyang with respect to mastery of the strongly worded insult and the vicious curse.
But then the North Koreans are simply the best in the business. (Read my blogs from 2013 and 2014 on the matter here and here.)
In fact, there was a time when the insults industry of the North Korean state led me to wonder if it counted a number of frustrated novelists within the bureaucracy. The flavour and pungency of the insults routinely hurled by Pyongyang at the US and others seemed so flowery and ripe with mendacious meaning, that it seemed difficult to imagine they were crafted by mere civil servants.
The rhetorical excesses would be either heavily embroidered or a loaded pipe bomb filled with verbal dynamite that blew a Grand Canyon-wide gap through ideas of propriety, civility, diplomacy or good sense. For instance, of then American President Obama, the North Korean state once said: “It would be perfect for Obama to live with a group of monkeys in the world’s largest African natural zoo and lick the breadcrumbs thrown by spectators.”
At the time Pyongyang spat out that particular insult, Korea expert James Grayson noted that the propensity to strong language is a psychological ploy “because this person was powerful and he has to be made to be the embodiment of all that is evil.”
Perhaps. Or it’s just that there is a frustrated Shakespeare within every North Korean pen-pusher.
Whatever it is, Moscow is not a patch on Pyongyang.